Reverent Ornament: Art from the Islamic World opens February 18February 13, 2023
The Columbia Museum of Art announces featured spring exhibition Reverent Ornament: Art from the Islamic World, on view Saturday, February 18, through Sunday, May 14, 2023. Organized by the Huntington Museum of Art and toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C., the exhibition offers some 45 works with which to explore the arts and crafts traditions and scientific innovations of Iran, Egypt, India, Syria, and Turkey from the 10th to the 19th centuries. Opening day festivities include a CMA members drop-in as well as dance and musical performances.
What was in Western culture historically considered the Near Eastern world — roughly, a vast stretch of regions including India and the Asian countries to its west — is a vivid patchwork of many different peoples, languages, and traditions, with a history stretching back to Neolithic times. Comprising works of fine glassware, ceramics, metalwork, painting, weaponry, weaving, and much more, Reverent Ornament shares timeless Islamic art that celebrates everyday life, history, and culture.
The works, all of which come from the collection of Drs. Joseph and Omayma Touma, include objects meant for palaces as well as ordinary homes, evoking a rich vision of daily life and highlighting the humanism, scientific advancements, artistry, and reverence of the people who used and created them, many of whom belong to groups that have been historically maligned and misrepresented in much of Western culture. While these objects showcase the artistic output of a wide array of societies, they share certain visual commonalities shaped in part by the prevailing cultural and religious practices of Islam and cross-cultural exchange among many dynamic groups.
Though the vast stretch of regions that fall under the umbrella of the “Islamic world” were shaped to some extent by the practice of Islam, the region sometimes called SWANA (South and West Asia and North Africa) has always encompassed vibrant places where people from many religious groups intermingle. It is for this reason that the Toumas chose to include in their collection objects that reflect belief systems outside of the Muslim faith, to include copies of sacred Hindu texts and Christian icons. Such objects, like those for Christian or Jewish patrons, were at times created by Muslim craftspeople, again underscoring the fact that despite their different ways of worship, these groups have more that unites than divides them.
“While the individual pieces are dazzling in their elaborate ornament, the great strength of this exhibition is in its diversity and its power to open minds and reinforce connections,” says CMA Curator of Education Glenna Barlow. “Each of the works on view speaks volumes not only about the culture it came from but the connections between them — universal values of creative exploration, innovation, and reverence that unite us, all in objects that are beautiful to behold.”
Opening Day Members Drop-In
Saturday, February 18 | 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
To celebrate the exhibition opening of Reverent Ornament: Art from the Islamic World, members are invited to bring a friend and drop by the museum for an afternoon of refreshment and artistic enlightenment. Enjoy complimentary coffee, pastries, and other treats throughout the event by Sarah Simmons of City Grit, recently nominated for a James Beard Award as Outstanding Restauranteur. Don’t miss the opening day dance and musical performances beginning at 2:00 p.m. And be on the lookout for docents with an “Ask me about the art!” button throughout the galleries for an opportunity to chat and ask questions. Free. Members only, but as a special perk, members are encouraged to bring a friend along.
Opening Day Performances: Reverent Ornament
Saturday, February 18 | 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. | Dance at 2:00 p.m. | Live music at 2:45 p.m.
Enjoy an afternoon of cultural enrichment on opening day of Reverent Ornament: Art from the Islamic World. From 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., drop in the galleries to get insight on art from our knowledgeable group of interpretive guides. Docents will be stationed throughout the galleries to chat and answer questions about works on view. At 2:00 p.m., Maria Palacio of Alegria Dance Studio performs a number of regional theatrical folkloric dances from Egypt. At 2:45 p.m., Peter Kfoury, dubbed “The Oud Dude,” performs a musical set featuring traditional Arabic music as well as Middle Eastern sounds fused with jazz, pop, and funk music accompanied by Middle Eastern percussionist Brandi Mizilca. Free with membership or admission.
Reverent Ornament: Art from the Islamic World is organized by the Huntington Museum of Art and toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C. Supporting Sponsors: Dr. Suzanne R. Thorpe and Dr. John W. Baynes. Patron Sponsor: Dr. Jessica Kross. Media Sponsors: Grace Outdoor; WXRY 99.3 FM. Grantors: City of Columbia; Experience Columbia SC; Richland County Government; South Carolina Arts Commission; Discover South Carolina.